Appreciating People While They Live

No matter what season it is, when you lay someone to rest, the day becomes still and peaceful. The wind sounds around corners, whispers in between rocks. There is silence when you need it.

I am so grateful for the rituals we have created. Throwing dirt on the grave, the last gift you can give to a person, and mixing in cut flowers that the deceased planted with his grandchildren, which have now grown beautiful and colorful and tall.

Why do we spend our lives looking ahead? We also need to look back. Tell the stories worth telling while people are alive to hear them. Recognize the incredibleness of people we love while they are vibrant and alive. Share their beauty and their wonder and their immense gift to the world before they’re gone.

We must tell the stories in our midst over and over again, so that as new generations are growing up around us, they understand the legacies they are stepping into.

I’ve been thinking this past week about how short life is. And how important it is to live each day to the fullest, to really be in every moment, to look people in the eye and listen to them fully and love with all your heart.

We don’t do much of that, do we? We stop and ponder when a flood pours into the basement and upends our neighborhoods and we stop and ponder when a person we love passes away. We stop to notice the details and recognize the brilliance in our midst only when something huge puts out its cloying hand and says, “Pay Attention Now.”

There are, of course, times when we notice the wonder around us. When I light Shabbat candles on a Friday night and the glow and flicker of six wicks beckon toward me, I stop to take in that vision, and be grateful for the six of us in my little wonderful family.

This morning, when my husband and I climbed out of bed and into the sunrise, we certainly noticed the pink of the rising sky, the feather-sweep of angel wing clouds, the moon high in the sky as the sun climbed to reach it. The week we spent at the beach, I loved the roar and tumble of the waves over and over and over again, the fine caress of the sand on my feet, the fragrant scent of pine between the houses.

Of course, each of these instances, I was outside of my normal rushing routine. So I had the time to notice, I was in the mindset to notice.

But when we fall into the chaos of school and work and family obligations and extracurriculars and arguing amongst the siblings, we’re simply holding it all together. There is no time or space for wonder.

The secret is, though, that there always is. We just have to make beauty and brilliance and appreciation the priorities.

What if we lived life as if there were no tomorrow? No moment to come after this one? Would we notice the gleam in an eye, the cadence of a voice, the importance of a person’s words? Would we connect soul to soul?

What if we stopped planning for some-day and started living today? What if we made the people we love – whether they are family or friends or whomever – our main focus, alongside making a difference in the world?

It’s something I’ve been striving for for a long time. And yet I keep getting sucked into the whorl of routine and chaos and expectation.

It’s time. It’s time to stop wasting time, frittering it away with worry and animosity and dissent. Just do it, to quote a popular 1980s advertising slogan. Just do whatever your heart has been wanting to do. Just jump off the 10-foot-high rock and into the cold waters and swim.

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